“Conviction” Movie Review

     Tony Goldwyn’s “Conviction” has a story line so preposterous it must be true, and it is.  Yet another prison related film with decent star power, Conviction stars Hilary Swank in the lead role as Betty Anne Waters, the sister of convicted murderer Kenny Waters, played by Sam Rockwell.  The premise is based on a true story where Betty Anne spends 18 years in the prime of her life, tirelessly dedicated to proving the innocence of her imprisoned brother.  Along the way, she stumbles on major road blocks, but her determination is relentless and even if you don’t know this story already, you’ll anticipate the outcome.

     The early portions of the film spend time doing two important things.  The first is to show us the apparent bond between the two siblings.  They are shown spending quality time together as preteens burglarizing peoples homes, shoplifting, and punching cops.  Though they both are involved in each and every incident, the cops take an obvious dislike to Kenny and this becomes important later.  The second priority, I presume to add some punch to the film’s outcome, is to make Kenny out to be a big time scumbag as an adult.  Whereas Betty Anne has grown up as a mature and stable woman, Kenny has grown up to be a worthless thug.  In one scene, I felt for Betty Anne’s husband as he watches in horror as Kenny nearly beats a guy to death for saying something disrespectful to him in a bar.  All this and more is carefully organized in the first third of the movie to make the audience believe Kenny is capable of the murder he is said to have committed.

     After all this, you would think a conviction would put the nail in the coffin of this guy, but for some reason Betty Anne thinks her brother is innocent.  The film never bothers to explain why and this is a significant downfall in the narrative because the journey Betty Anne then embarks on is extreme to say the least.  Even though her husband is against it, Betty Anne goes to law school with the goal of becoming her brother’s lawyer, filing an appeal, and proving he is innocent.  This process takes 18 years and during that time Betty Anne loses her husband (divorce), her two children (she’s not paying them any attention), her only friend (Abra played by Minnie Driver), has absolutely no social life, and makes ends meet by working at night in a bar.  All because of her and her brother’s connection or what ever you call it.

     Of course, there is a method to Tony Goldwyn’s madness here.  His intention in making this film and the story’s significance comes from this case being one of the first cases that was overturned due to DNA Evidence. Since that is the big statement the film is making here, it’s not shocking that Betty Anne uncovers all sorts of police related corruption in the case which we find out it’s due to the hatred many of the town’s cops had for Kenny dating back to his childhood.  When the film tries to go for an emotional uplift upon Kenny’s release it just deflates us.  The film is not a crowd pleaser in other words, rather it seems to be a convenient way to make a statement about criminals who get wrongfully prosecuted.

     Hilary Swank is solid as usual, as is Sam Rockwell.  They play both of their characters straight up and by the numbers.  I got the feeling there wasn’t much ad lib from the script as the lines are straight and to the point, sans any interesting dialogue.  As I stated earlier, my main complaint about the film is the absence of any valid reason why Betty Anne would give up so much for her brother without some concrete evidence that pointed to his innocence.  We are led to believe Kenny is quite capable of committing Murder and for most of the film we don’t mind that he is in prison.  On a side note, this film marks the second time inside of a week that Juliette Lewis has appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.  Coincidentally, she plays almost the same role in both films (Due Date), that being a trashy low life and she is highly effective as a key witness who is responsible for putting Kenny behind bars in the first place.  Just thought I would add that little tid bit since she is the only one in Conviction who made any sense as a character. GRADE: C-